A buzzing crowd awash with bright colors and handmade signs awaited 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg at the Iowa City climate strike on Friday, November 29. The young activist who is known for fighting for sustainability and only traveling in environmentally friendly transportation arrived in a Tesla to an uproarious greeting.
She reached national acclaim earlier this year when she sailed across the Atlantic Ocean on a zero-emission yacht to speak at the UN climate summit. She has traveled internationally and committed to minimizing her carbon footprint the entire way.
The young crowd was packed and restless as they waited for the protest to officially start. The day had been forecasted to be cool, but once the speaking started bodies surged forward, and created so much heat that people started shedding layers and laying clothes at their feet between sporadic chants of “End Coal Now!”
“Wow!” said Thunberg, as she scanned the crowd with shock. “It’s just so many people. I don’t think any of expected this many people.” After thanking the young strikers for their efforts and acknowledging the Sioux and Meskwaki people whose land we reside on, she continued on. “This is real hope, so many people gathering on a weekday at such short notice. This is real hope to me,” said Thunberg.
She addressed the crowd and emphasized that world leaders will not commit to creating the policies needed to save the Earth. “World leaders keep acting like children and someone needs to be the adult in the room,” said Thunberg.
“And we will not beg world leaders to care and to act. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again. We will instead tell them that if they won’t do it, then we will,” Thunberg said in an impassioned closing statement.
Iowa Senator Joe Bolkcom followed speeches by the Climate Strikers and other environmental activists. Bolckom also took a strong partisan stance while demanding that Conservative politicians be held accountable for their policies and actions.
He took the raised platform with enthusiasm and three challenges for audience members. He was adamant that the only way we can stop climate change is to caucus, demand transparency and detailed policies from all politicians, and to fire President Trump and Iowa Senator Joni Ernst.
The Climate Strikers are calling for an accord between the University of Iowa and Iowa City demanding that the University immediately cease burning coal at the power plant and work towards achieving 100% renewable energy by 2030. The University has committed to being coal-free by 2025, but many locals fear that it won’t reduce carbon emissions enough.
Thunberg made an appearance at the Iowa City climate strike after hearing about the junior high and high school students who left school early every Friday to go to City Hall and demand that they increase local sustainability efforts.
The Climate Strikers are led by 14-year-old Massimo Biggers who is a freshman at Iowa City High School. He was inspired by Thunberg and started striking in junior high, sometimes as the only protester. On October 4, he spoke in front of a crowd of 3,000 people about climate change, accompanied by Thunberg.
After speeches by fellow climate strikers and local activists, they asked that the crowd sit in silence for 11 minutes to represent the number of years left before we have caused irreparable damage from climate change according to the IPCC report’s first 2030 deadline for change. However, there was a much larger turnout than organizers had anticipated, and many people had to stand.
The next global strike will be on November 29, 2019. Until then Johnson County residents can continue to fight climate change by joining the IC Climate Strikers on “Roving” strikes. The next one will be held Friday, October 18, to continue raising awareness about the University of Iowa’s coal-burning practices.
Activist Massimo Biggers asks that people who attended the strike in October continue their efforts by making a sign and taking a friend to protest at a public location. The protests will last all day, and it’s up to strikers to decide how much time they’ll commit.